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2002-07-30 Interview with James G. Lemaster, July 30, 2002 Leg001:02OH52Leg51 01:19:53 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Basketball players -- Kentucky -- Biography. Apportionment (Election law) -- Kentucky. Educational changes -- Kentucky. Horse industry -- Law and legislation -- Kentucky. Lobbyists -- Kentucky. Kentucky. Governor (1987-1991 : Wilkinson) Kentucky. Governor (1991-1995 : Jones) Kentucky. Governor (1974-1979 : Carroll) Kentucky. Governor (1979-1983 : Brown) Kentucky. Governor (1983-1987 : Collins) Paris (Ky.) Mulloy, Pat Combs, Bert T. LeMaster family Brown, John Y. Jr. Richardson, Bobby Carroll, Julian Kenton, Bill (Boom Boom) Collins, Martha Layne Wilkinson, Wallace Jones, Brereton Judiciary Committee Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) Toyota Manufacturing (Georgetown, Ky.) Southern Legislative Conference Kentucky Cities Committee party factions University of Kentucky basketball redistricting campaigning annual sessions law practice role of legislature legislative independence court reform leadership education reform tax legislation political bargaining regionalism BOPTROT ethics legislation horse industry Key Legislation:Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA); horse industry legislation Term/District:House (1976-1994), 72nd district Leadership Position(s): House Majority Leader, 1982-1984 Counties in District: Bourbon County (Ky.), Fayette County (Ky.), Nicholas County (Ky.) James G. Lemaster; interviewee Eric Moyen; interviewer 2002OH052_LEG051_Lemaster 1:|18(5)|32(13)|44(14)|55(7)|61(11)|74(4)|82(13)|94(14)|108(11)|119(5)|132(2)|143(1)|155(11)|163(13)|172(14)|186(2)|199(13)|209(4)|221(1)|234(1)|241(14)|249(12)|260(3)|267(18)|278(17)|286(11)|299(13)|310(5)|320(12)|329(17)|341(6)|350(10)|362(10)|369(9)|380(5)|388(4)|402(9)|411(6)|421(2)|433(9)|443(1)|453(11)|462(8)|474(12)|483(8)|494(13)|501(11)|510(1)|524(4)|532(12)|541(14)|553(14)|562(11)|574(2)|581(13)|589(10)|599(18)|611(10)|622(10)|631(17)|641(6)|650(4)|659(14)|671(11)|683(11)|693(7)|700(11)|709(15)|718(11)|729(10)|741(6)|749(15)|758(15)|765(5)|776(11)|787(10)|800(3)|809(6)|820(13) audiotrans Legit interview MOYEN: All right. I'm here with Jim LeMaster today, who served House District 72 from 1976 to 1995, I believe. LEMASTER: Let's see. I think I was out the end of `94. MOYEN: Ninety-four was your last session. LEMASTER: Right. I didn't run back for reelection, so the end of `94 is when I got out of the legislature. MOYEN: All right. Could you tell me a little bit about your background, where you're from? LEMASTER: Well, I grew up in Paris, Kentucky, and still live there. After I got out of law school, I stayed in Lexington a little while and then went back to Paris and sort of lived there continuously since the late '70s. So, you know, really, I'd say that I grew up and still live in Paris, Kentucky. Grew up on a farm. My dad was, at that time, when I was in Bourbon County, was farm manager for a fellow by the name of Hershel Will. And then later, when I was a senior in high school, I guess it would be 1963, Dad, we moved to Fayette County, and Dad managed Spendthrift Farms. And so all of my juvenile life I was, lived in a, on a farm setting. And I guess you'd say I was a farm boy. MOYEN: What were your parents' names? LEMASTER: My dad's name was James Leroy LeMaster, and my mother was Hermalee Preston LeMaster. MOYEN: All right. Could you tell me a little bit about your schooling experience growing up? LEMASTER: I went to, started out actually in Woodford County in a place called Nonesuch, and went to the first six grades of grade school. And then in the seventh grade we moved to Bourbon County. And I went seventh and eighth grade to, at that time they had elementary schools from first through eighth grade. And I went to seventh and eighth grade to a little school out in the county called Clintonville. And then upon graduation from eighth grade, I went to Bourbon County High School and graduated there in the spring of 1964. MOYEN: Okay. Let me back up just a little and ask you when you born. LEMASTER: I was born August 12, 1946. And that was just after the war. And my father was, both my parents are from Johnson County. But after the war, Dad came back here and finished up at the University of Kentucky. So I was born in Lexington in Cooperstown, over there where they had the family housing. And at that time they, from the pictures I've seen, I don't quite remember them, but the, it was almost like little Quonset huts over there where Cooperstown now exists. MOYEN: What are you first political memories? What are the first things that you remember about politics? Do you have any idea what those might be? LEMASTER: Well, I guess probably the first thing that I would relate to politics, probably, was in `63 with the assassination of Kennedy. And at that time, I was just beginning my senior year in high school. And you know, that left quite a, you know, that left quite an impression on me and, I think, the rest of the nation, too. From there, I really, I guess you would say I sort of got involved in politics, I wasn't involved in student politics, to speak of, at U.K. I went to U.K. from `64 and graduated in 1968, and then got a law degree in 1972. And it would have been, I guess, near the end of my law school career. It was the Bert Combs and Wendell Ford race for governor. And I sort of got involved with a group on campus for Bert Combs. And I can remember they had a day for Bert Combs at U.K. And Governor Combs came, and I sort of took him around the whole day. And then there was a U.K. basketball game that night, and I took him to the basketball game. And then I went on my own way, but I was so tired I almost wanted to go home. And I just, I thought right then, I said, you know, "How in the world do these statewide candidates do what they do?" You know, it's just day after day after day of grinding. And so I, that's probably the first real touch I had with politics. MOYEN: You mentioned Wendell Ford running against Bert Combs. I guess this has changed some now, but there obviously were some factions within the Democratic Party, probably still are, but probably deeper factions, especially coming out of the "Happy" Chandler era. Did you see yourself as fitting into a certain faction or division within the Democratic Party at that time? LEMASTER: I don't think so. At that time I didn't. I was sort of drawn to the candidate. Governor Combs was an interesting fellow, very talented, and I guess I was drawn to him more than, you know, being one part of a faction or the other. But, you know, certainly there have been factions in the Democratic Party over the years. And from there I got, after I got out of law school, got interested in a local Commonwealth Attorney race here in Fayette County. Pat Mulloy was running for Commonwealth Attorney, and I got to be good friends with his brother, Mike, who ended up being chairman of the Democratic Party for Fayette County for quite a few years. And I helped Pat run his campaign that year for Commonwealth Attorney, which would have been probably `72, somewhere in there. And so that's a little bit more how I got into politics. MOYEN: Did you, you mentioned when you were in college showing Governor Combs around. Did you, having played basketball at the University of Kentucky, did that lend itself to your meeting, maybe, more influential people, at least in the state, that would have gotten you interested in any politics? Or would that really not have played a role? LEMASTER: I don't really think that it would have played a role as far as getting me interested in politics. Certainly, the fact that I played basketball at the University of Kentucky opened a lot of doors. You know, you still had to walk through the door, but you know, there's a great deal of notoriety with the fact that you played for U.K. So you know, I'm sure that over my political and business career it's been very beneficial. You, you know, it does open doors. And then you've got to produce after that, but it does open doors. MOYEN: So what was the impetus for running? How did you end up deciding to run for political office? LEMASTER: Well, I think the initial involvement in Pat Mulloy's race sort of got my appetite whet, so to speak. And I began getting more interested in politics, in local politics and statewide politics, and just felt that, you know, I had a pretty good educational background and I felt like that I had an interest in politics. And from that, I felt like there were some things that I could do on a positive, you know, in a positive way. MOYEN: Um-hm. And how did you make that known within the party or in Bourbon County? How did you get to talking to people and say, "Hey, this is something I think I can do or I want to do?" LEMASTER: Well, I think initially I talked to Mike Mulloy, who was involved in Democratic politics in Fayette County. And I already had, you know, a lot of connections with Bourbon County, having grown up there. And I thought that, you know, the two could marry themselves pretty easily as far as-at that time, the 72nd District was all of Bourbon County and a portion of Fayette County. So after, I mean while I was there, the district changed somewhat, and we took in a portion of, well, we took in all of Nicholas County at, near the end of my career in the legislature. So when I left, it was Nicholas, Bourbon, and still a portion of Fayette County, but a lesser portion than we started out with. MOYEN: You're discussing the reapportionment. How did that change the way you would deal with your constituents, particularly thinking about the difference between people in Nicholas County and their concerns, as well as people in Fayette County and their concerns? Was there any difference there in how you had to approach your constituency? LEMASTER: Well, there really wasn't much difference when it was just Bourbon and Fayette County, because it was the rural portion of Fayette County. And at that time, I think it ran from outside New Circle Road, out, sort of the quadrant, if you went out Versailles Road to the Woodford County line, all the way around that section till you get to Winchester Road, and then out Winchester Road to the Bourbon County line over there. All that was the rural part of Fayette County. So those kind of issues that affected rural Fayette County were generally issues that would affect rural Bourbon County. Now, when Nicholas County was added to the district, it became a little bit different because, I think, Nicholas County is a poorer county. It's got issues that may not have been as important to the people in Bourbon and a portion of Fayette County. So it changed with the adding of Nicholas County, because you had to look for additional issues to represent those people adequately. MOYEN: One of the most famous political figures or public figures from your area was Ed Prichard. Did you ever have any meetings with him, or were you in any way connected with him? LEMASTER: Not really connected with him. I knew Prich, and you know, he was a brilliant man. And I had occasions to, had conversations with him. And, you know, that was all in the latter part of his life. But he was a unique person that was quite a famous individual. And, you know, it's disappointing that he had the one run-in that he did. But I mean, from all, the book I've read and, you know, the things I've heard about him, he was a brilliant person. MOYEN: So tell me a little bit about your campaign, your very first campaign, your first attempts to run for office. LEMASTER: That's hard to remember (Moyen laughs). That's 1975. It was a campaign against-what had happened, there was, Ted Custer was a Republican from Bourbon County that the, well, let's see. Brooks Hinkle, who had been state representative from Bourbon County, he was a teacher. And Mr. Hinkle had been state representative for Bourbon and Fayette, that portion of Fayette, probably for a little over twenty years. And he died unexpectedly. And I can't even remember who the Democrats they put up, but maybe his name was, I believe his name was Charlie Scott. And Ted Custer was a Republican, and Ted upset, in a special election, you know, the Republican percentages were 80 to 20 in the district, but Ted Custer upset him in a special election. And so then they had to come back and have a regular election, and I decided to get in the race. And felt like that, you know, I could make a difference. And I thought I had a chance to win. And so I got out and worked pretty hard. And I think my first race, I ran against a fellow by the name of Bill Woodford. And it was a pretty close race. I think in the Democratic primary, I beat him, I can't remember exactly, but probably 100 or so votes. And Bill was from Bourbon County and he was a banker and well-known, and just did a lot of door-to-door campaigning and, you know, had a lot of mailers that went out. But I can remember going door to door. I'd work during the day and I'd knock on doors, and go meet people, go to functions every night for several months. And beat him in a close race. And then beat Ted Custer, who really, in a special election, he never did have a chance to sit in Frankfort in a regular session because they only met every two years. And so I beat Ted in the fall fairly, well, a lot easier than the primary. MOYEN: Was that campaigning door to door, going to dinners, is that something that you enjoyed, something that you relished? Or was it just kind of a necessity? LEMASTER: Well, I think probably a little bit of both. I probably enjoyed it the first couple of times I did it and, you know, enjoyed, I've always enjoyed people. And I enjoyed getting to meet people and talk to people. It was, you know, when you were doing door-to-door campaigning, you had, you know, you couldn't stop and talk as much as people would want to talk to you, so you sometimes felt like that you were slighting people when you were trying to visit them door to door and cover some ground. But I enjoyed it for a while, and then I think, later in the, as I got, as I'd been in Frankfort more and more at, and I probably had, you know, got married, got a family, and had all kinds of other responsibilities in addition to trying to run for reelection from time to time. And that probably made it a little bit lesser of a joy to go out campaigning door to door. MOYEN: When did you get married? LEMASTER: I got married in May of 1980. MOYEN: Okay. So how, in what ways did you see being involved in politics affect, for good or ill, family? And was that ever a strain on your family or was it pretty simple, just like, maybe, any other job? LEMASTER: Well, I think it got to the point, the legislature when I first started was a part--, what you'd call a part-time job. I mean we, you did have times when you got called into special session, but outside of that, you know, you'd go the first of January, then you'd get out the 15th of April. And every other year, you did that. And in my situation, I practiced law while I was in the legislature. And you would just sort of have to plan around those, that two-and-a-half, three month period when you were in session every other year. And when it was, when it, you know, until they got to the point where it was annual sessions, and I think that you've seen, I think annual sessions has more to do with taking people in professional life out of the legislature, so I think you lose some of your citizen-legislative flavor by the fact that you've got annual sessions. But I think as I'd been there for a while, it got more, it got, it was almost sort of like a two, that you had two fulltime jobs. You know, you had your job, I had my law practice and my partners wanted to know how much work I'd done that day and how many new clients I'd brought in. And by the same token, you know, you had this, you know, you had to represent thirty-six to forty thousand people. And so I found myself doing a lot of the legislative work at night and on the weekends. And, you know, seemed like it, those were some, you know, those things took a little bit away from family life. MOYEN: What type of law did you specialize in? LEMASTER: Well, as I, I was really sort of in general practice for quite a while. The, I practiced law twenty-five years before I took the job with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in 1997. So the last ten years I was with a firm called Greenbaum Doll & McDonald, which is a, one of the three or four largest firms in Kentucky. We had offices in Louisville, Lexington, and northern Kentucky. And I was in our litigation department, so I was in litigation. MOYEN: Okay. Now getting back to when you were elected, and you go to Frankfort, what types of things, when you're a freshman legislator, surprised you, were you not expecting? And what types of things may have seemed exactly like what you thought they were going to be like? LEMASTER: Well, I think as a freshman legislator, you thought you were going to go over there and change the world. And it didn't take you long to be over there to figure out that that wasn't going to happen, especially back-when I was first elected in 1976, Governor Julian Carroll was the governor at that time. And back in those days, the governor elected the leadership that he wanted in the Senate and the House. And he had certain pieces of legislation that he sent up that he wanted to get passed that usually got passed. And so you could say that at that point in time, the governor was extremely dominant as far as the, you know, between the legislature and the governor's office. And he did dominate, and I mean he was good governor. Did a lot of things to move the state forward, but he was also, it was not a, it was not what you would consider a, the checks and balances that you read about in your political science books of the governor's office, the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. So there weren't the checks and balances that you read about in the political science book at that time. Now that changed, really, in 19--, it began to change in 1980. Or I guess in 1979 Governor John Y. Brown was elected and he took the position in the 1980 election for leadership that he wasn't going, he wasn't going to get involved. You know, he said it's the legislative branch's duty and responsibility to elect their own leadership. And he said I'll work with them and I'll get along with them. And so he took a hands-off, you know up until, throughout history, as far as I know from what I've read, until the 1980 election of the legislative leadership, the governor handpicked who he wanted in leadership and basically passed the legislation that he or she wanted. And that all began to change under Governor Brown, and the legislative leadersh--, I mean the legislative independence started to evolve and get stronger and stronger and stronger. MOYEN: Do you recall who the leaders were when you first entered the legislature, who Governor Carroll had chosen and (unintelligible)? LEMASTER: Yeah. At that time in the House, Bill Kenton from here in Fayette County was the Speaker of the House, and Bobby Richardson from Glasgow was the majority leader. In the Senate, I believe Joe Prather was the president pro tem from down at E'town or Vine Grove there in Hardin County, and Joe Wright, who was a real, an excellent farmer from down in western Kentucky, was the majority leader in the Senate. And then Bill Kenton continued to, in the House, Bill Kenton continued to be the speaker, and Bobby Richardson continued to be the majority leader until Bill unexpectedly died in 1982. And Bobby Richardson was elected speaker and I was elected majority leader. And I served for two terms as majority leader, and Bobby served for two terms as speaker. And then in 19--, that was `82 and `84, in the elections for leadership in `85, Don Blandford upset Bobby Richardson, and Greg Stumbo upset me. So we were out and they were in. And then some of the things that have gone on are history. MOYEN: Now, when you first arrived in Frankfort, you mentioned that Governor Carroll picked the leadership. How did you make known possible committee assignments that you wanted? Or how did that process take place, in terms of your getting appointed to various committees? LEMASTER: Well, it was sort of interesting. It, at the, even though Governor Carroll had his slate that he was sort of backing for leadership, there was a, the existing, Norb Blume was the existing speaker, and Bill Kenton was running against Norb. And it was a real pretty tight race. So we had a pretty strong group of freshman legislators at that time in `76, so some of us got together and got to be pretty good friends with Bill Kenton during the legislative elections, leadership elections, with Bill and Bobby Richardson. And it just so happened that we chose right and they were elected. And out of that, you know, we pretty well were able to tell them, because of our support for their candidacy, you know, what committees we wanted to be on. And I think it was `79 or `80, I was appointed as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which I was able to use my legal background in that. But I mean, it helps to pick the sides right, and we were fortunate enough to pick the sides right. MOYEN: What types of issues did you deal with on the House Judiciary Committee? LEMASTER: Well, we had a lot of things to deal with as far, the judicial amendment passed in 1976, and for the next several years we were doing a lot of implementing as far as the new judicial amendment. And that was, until then, you had, usually, people sitting as judges who didn't have any legal background. And that all changed with the judicial amendment. And then for several years, we spent a lot of time putting in place the different rules as far as implementing what was the judicial amendment, which set up our district courts, circuit courts, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court. But then on a yearly basis you dealt with, most all the changes that go on in the legal system come to the Judiciary Committee. So, you know, we dealt with everything from capital punishment to the most minuet changes in the law. MOYEN: Now the judicial amendment, what were, and I think you mentioned this already, but what were a few of the biggest reforms that really helped the judiciary system in Kentucky? LEMASTER: Well you had, until 1976, you had lay people sitting as judges in cases. And this all changed with the passage of the judicial amendment. And from then on, all of the people that ended up in your district court, your circuit court, Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court, from then on out, all of the people that were the judges would be, would have a law degree. And that was probably the biggest thing, because in the past you had lay people sitting there that had no legal background making decisions, I mean making judicial decisions that actually ended up putting people in jail. And so you had, you know, I think that most of us would rather have somebody with judicial training, legal training, sitting there in, as a judge and deciding a case, rather than somebody with lay experience. MOYEN: Could you tell me a little bit about the process of becoming floor leader and the campaigning per se that might take place in the legislature to earn that position and then to try and retain it? LEMASTER: Well, you just, I mean you try to find people that have the type of values that you have. And from there, you have to, you know, you have to constantly show that you have some leadership capabilities. But Bobby Richardson, who was the majority leader when Bill Kenton died, Bobby and I were real good friends and got along. And we'd both decided that he would run for speaker and I would run for his position as majority leader. And so we had a, you know, we had a lot of common things that we supported and, you know, we had our own, I guess you'd say, our own inner group of friends. And we just used them to build on our campaign. MOYEN: Now, how does your role change as a legislator from being there and serving on your committee to becoming floor leader? What types of new tasks did you take on and what types of things did you have to leave behind? LEMASTER: Well, you would, your life became a lot more hectic. And I mean, you know, when I was, when I served on three committees, like I did before and after I was majority leader, you know, I could, you know, you could come and go. And you could plan your life a little bit easier than you could when you were majority leader, because the flow of the legislature comes through the majority leader's office. And so I had to be responsible for how the legislation flowed out of the committees to the floor, take the responsibility of running the Rules Committee to determine what flows to the floor and gets voted on and what either gets sent back to committee or gets, you know, gets killed. You know, there, it was, it just became, I mean like I said, I had two fulltime jobs when I was practicing law and in the legislature. When I was majority leader, for those two terms, it was a fulltime legislature, a lot more so than it was otherwise. MOYEN: When you served as floor leader when, in 1982, this is still during John Y. Brown's term and the legislature is becoming more independent, were there any, I guess what you might call "uncharted waters" in terms of new freedoms that you all saw yourself as having or that you were able to try and, I don't know if "push the envelope" is the right term, but to see how much the legislature could do on their own? Or was it pretty well understood? LEMASTER: No, it was, I mean, you know, it was certainly an uncharted area because, before, the governor told you what was going to move and what was going to, what was, you know, he had an agenda, and that moved. And everything else, if he wasn't interested in it, you know, it didn't matter to him whether it moved or not. But rest assured, Governor Carroll had an interest in a lot of different things. So he set the agenda for the legislature while he was governor. With Governor Brown, it was uncharted waters because you had a, you know, you had the responsibility for running the legislative branch of government. And so, you know, it fell on Bobby as speaker and me as majority leader to lead the House. And, you know, I think that probably during the latter portion, there were, there's always been a dispute over the administrative regs and whether or not the governor does things by administrative regs that really overrules the intent of the legislation. And there's been some-there was a legal challenge. I don't remember the exact, I think it was Brown v. LRC, and the governor brought the, or we might have brought it. I can't remember if the legislature brought it or Governor Brown brought it, to determine exactly who had certain powers in certain situations. So I mean it, yeah, it was, you know, you just sort of had to feel your way along because it had never, the legislature had never had to worry about governing itself before. And that started the increased legislative power, and it just, you know, it kept increasing. I think it increased, and then, you know, you had some abuses in the latter part of the, or early part of the `90s, and it may have fallen back a little bit. But I think that, you know, certainly now you've got coequal branches of government. And even now today, they're looking at the first time they've never had a budget. So I mean, I don't know. We've gone, we've probably gone full circle. MOYEN: Looking back on Governor Brown's term, what would you consider some of the most important legislation that you all were able to pass during his term? LEMASTER: Oh, it's been so long ago I'm not even sure. I know there, we al--, seemed like you were always dealing with education reform in one way or not. And I think that the latter part of Governor Brown and the early part of Governor Collins started paving the ground for education initiatives, because so many dollars were spent on education. I think back in those times, on secondary, elementary, and college, there was something like 65 percent, even then, spent on education in Kentucky. So most of your decisions centered around, you know, how to fund education, how to do it properly, and those type of things. MOYEN: Did that sort of, the dominance of that issue, did that fit with your political philosophy of what you thought, that this is what state government should be involved with and involved in? LEMASTER: Yeah, I think so. I think, you know, that and, you know, running all the essential parts of government certainly fit my philosophy. MOYEN: Um-hm. What other areas, I'm sure your philosophy of government evolved while you were there, did you really seem to think that this was something that maybe government should be more involved with? Or this is something that government shouldn't be so involved in? Can you think of anything in terms of your philosophy or what you planned on accomplishing when you were there that might have changed? LEMASTER: I think over time I've, and it may have been, you know, through my legal work and some of my, you know, some of the way I saw certain businesses, I probably began to move from the side of government doing everything for you to more of the middle of the road, and government needs to do less. I think I saw myself evolving over time in the legislature, and certainly since I've been out of the legislature, to that. MOYEN: You have mentioned how things continued under the leadership of Martha Layne Collins similar to that of John Y. Brown. Under her administration the, well, she called a special session on education. Do you recall what some of things that you all passed then that you had mentioned that would eventually pave the way for KERA? Can you think of anything specific? LEMASTER: Golly, that's seventeen/eighteen years ago. Not anything specific, but just the, you know, emphasis on proper funding of education. You know, that seems like that has been, you know, even to when they got to the lawsuit on, you know, how you properly fund education in Kentucky, that seems to be always the battle. And even back then, you know, how do you adequately and properly fund education? But there were, you know, there were quite a few programs that began under Governor Collins, if I remember correctly, in the education arena that you would say were ideas that, you know, maybe KERA went on with. MOYEN: Like most politicians and especially governors, they seem to promise to try and bring new industry to the state. Under her administration, the legislature did play an important role in bringing Toyota to Georgetown and Scott County. How did that process develop and how did the legislature go about bargaining over what types of breaks Toyota would get? And what were your thoughts on that before that decision was finalized? LEMASTER: Well, you know, certainly hindsight has shown that the decision, that the leadership that Governor Collins showed in her initiative with Toyota and the fact that the legislature went along with most of the things that she wanted. You know, it shows that the governor was right and the legislature was right in what they did because, you know, I've thought back many times, you know, just where would Kentucky be if we didn't have, not only Toyota, but all the spinoff industries that they have brought to us with, you know, Toyota locating here. I forget the number of companies, but it's well over 100, that have brought many, many, many jobs to Kentucky. And so I mean, you know, it was, with all the incentive packages that you see passed now, a lot of people, a lot of the critics back then were challenging on it, challenging it on how much, you know, we did in the way of an incentive package to get them to locate here. But I mean it's money so well spent in today's world as far as all, you know, the millions of dollars in incentives are offered to get large plants to locate here. But I mean it's, you know, it's been a good, clean industry that have, most of the companies are very supportive to different civic ideas. And you know, I just, I wonder where we were, where we'd be if we hadn't made those decisions. And I was glad I was on the side to bring them here. [End of Tape #1, Side #1] [Begin of Tape #1, Side #2] MOYEN: All right. After Martha Layne Collins' term, Governor Wilkinson takes office and he attempts to, in some ways, assert gubernatorial leadership in ways that hadn't been tried the last few administrations. What was your take as a legislator on Governor Wilkinson's approach to governing versus that of Governor Brown and Governot Collins? LEMASTER: Well, he was much more of a strong willed or strong-armed governor and, you know, felt very strongly that his ideas were the best ideas. And he didn't take too kindly with people that disagreed with him, although, you know, the, I think the, there may have been a slight movement back with the governor being a little bit, you know, more strong willed. But by and large, the institution as such, as far as the legislative, the House and the Senate, they had, I guess you'd say, tasted the legislative independence, and even though he was a lot more hands-on than the other two governors were with the legislature, you were not going to see a massive retrenching from the fact that legislative independence was here to stay. MOYEN: During his term you become host for, I've lost the name of it, the Southern Legislative- LEMASTER: Oh, the Southern Legislative Conference? MOYEN: the Southern Legislative Conference. How did that take place? How did Lexington manage to get that conference? And what did you do in terms of steps of helping the state and the city prepare for that? LEMASTER: Well, if I remember, I can't exactly remember who said, you know, "Would you be interested in being the chairman of the host committee?" But I believe somebody showed some interest in Kentucky, we hadn't had it for quite a few years, and showed some interest in Kentucky hosting that. And it, with that came a lot of fundraising that we had to do to get local companies to help us raise the money. I think we needed to raise about $200,000. And so with those duties came the unfortunate part of going out and asking for people to help us support it once we got it here. And it was a good experience. I think it was a real good experience for Kentucky and Lexington, because with the Southern Legislative Conference comes a lot of economic benefits to the state and to the city. And it was a lot of good work but I enjoyed it. MOYEN: In what ways do you see Kentucky's legislature or government being very similar to those of other southern states, and in what ways might Kentucky be unique? LEMASTER: Well, I would say that I think that's the last time we've had, the last time Kentucky's hosted it. And now, you know, it's been fifteen years. So I don't know what that says except, maybe, nobody is willing to go out and raise the kind of money that you've got to have to host it. I think we've probably got a lot of similarities with some of our states in the Southern Legislative Conference in the fact that many of the states are rural and most all of them seem to have education issues. A lot of them nowadays seem to be having some budget problems, too. And I think a lot of that stems from the way that, you know, the way that our tax system is set up. You know, we had, and I was trying to think, it was probably, I guess it was during, you know, the funding of KERA and Governor Wilkinson, when they were talking about taxing services. And a lot of the people, I mean there was a big up cry from those that were going to get taxed on the service side, most prominently of which was the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Courier-Journal. You know, they seemed to be pretty sanctimonious when it comes to that. I mean, you know they, it would be all right to tax legal services and tax laundry and these other things that are not done, but when it comes time to tax advertisement it's a violation of freedom of speech. It's interesting. But I mean, probably, if they hadn't have been as vocal as they were, that may well have, the service taxes may well have passed during the big, huge package of funding KERA And if we had, you know, if you added a lot of the services that are not taxed now to the tax base, you could probably even roll back from 6 percent what you're charging and have more money. But with that, I can't even remember where we were going when I got off on the newspapers, but it really was interesting during that debate that they were the most outspoken and vocal of, you know, "Tax them behind the tree, but not me." MOYEN: Right. You served on the A&R Committee, is that correct? LEMASTER: Um-hm, right. MOYEN: And that is primarily where a lot of these tax issues would develop. Explain the difficulties involved in trying to get legislators to pass bills that will bring in the appropriate revenue. LEMASTER: Oh, it's (laughs), it is extremely difficult. And I think, unfortunately, some of the things that have gone on that, more so since I've been out of government, since I was there, that you don't like to see. But sometimes they are a necessity. And that's where you trade projects for votes. And, you know, it's done really to a great level in Congress. And, you know, more recently in the legislature you find a lot of the tax, the major tax increases that are passed have usually got some sort of large segment of projects to get those votes. And it's unfortunate but, you know, maybe that's what you have to do. I wish that were not so, and you'd vote for it on the merits, but sometimes it's difficult. I can remember, I know a fellow from, well he's passed away now, but a fellow by the name of John Isler from northern Kentucky had been a state representative for thirty-some years by the time I got to the legislature in the `70s. And somebody said, "John," said, you know, "how are you, how do you explain how long you've been here?" And he said, "Oh," he said, "that's easy." He said, let's see, how did he say it? He said, "I vote against," he said, "I vote for all appropriations and I vote against all taxes." And somebody said, "Well, John," said, "well, you know, then how is something going to get passed?" He said, "Oh, there's enough down here that'll vote for those things." He said, "You can just sit back and take the credit" (Moyen laughs). And so, you know, it seems like nowadays we've got more of those over there than we've got people willing to step up and make a tough vote. MOYEN: You mentioned the political bargaining that takes place and sometimes, I guess, what in Kentucky has been historically known as, I think, "turkey" versus "pork," what we like to call it from the federal level. Can you think of any examples in your political career where you were able to help or be a part of a political transaction that you knew you needed this to get certain votes that really turned out to help certain legislation? Or ways that ya'll were able to press, whether it be an individual or a group of legislators, to get them on what you would think of as the right page for certain legislation? LEMASTER: Not any individual legislation can I remember, but I, you know, I can certainly remember certain things for Louisville and Jefferson County, or Fayette, Lexington/Fayette, northern Kentucky, eastern Kentucky. Different regions where you've got something that's very important to that region that you can, you know, that you can throw in to promise to work on votes. Yeah, I can remember that going on. More so for a region or an area of the state than, I think now exists more of a bartering with individual legislators for certain, for a certain project. MOYEN: What types of differences did you see as a legislator from central Kentucky versus, say, eastern or northern or western Kentucky? And were there divisions among legislators based on region? LEMASTER: There were, and there got to be, near the end of my service in the legislature, it got to be more and more. And it, I think that I saw, well, I saw some benefit from that, but I think I saw more harm coming about from that. You got really more regionalized and, you know, you had everything from Jefferson County delegation to the central Kentucky delegation, northern Kentucky, eastern Kentucky, western Kentucky. I mean they were springing up everywhere. It was every kind of delegation going on, and you got to the point where regionalism was becoming more of a hindrance than it was moving the state forward. MOYEN: Now, under Governor Wilkinson's term in office, the legislature, under judicial mandate, reforms the education system. Can you recall anything in the legislative process of KERA that you found particularly helpful or particularly frustrating for the state in terms of education? LEMASTER: Well, I didn't sit on the Education Committee that gave us KERA, but I did have had to sit on A&R that, you know, had to fund it. So, you know, I think that a lot of the things that were being, well I mean, you know, the plan that KERA gave us was very innovative. I mean it was, you know, it was something that hadn't been tried in a lot of different places. And, you know, I guess, you know, we're twelve years down the road and there's still debates going on whether KERA is good or bad. And I'm sure that it's probably somewhere in between. It's probably been very helpful in some things and, you know, not so helpful in other things. But the, I don't remember, it was just, you know, it was just so new as far as the whole concept of what you were trying to go from to, and the massive amount of dollars that had to be thrown, that had to raised to throw, I mean to fund it, were difficult at that time to comprehend. But I think we were all under the judicial mandate that we do something, so most of us, or at least 51 percent, were enough to step up to the plate to pass it. MOYEN: Your mentioning being on the A&R Committee and trying to fund that. Do you think that the extra funding that went into KERA, would that have been detrimental in any way to the funding of higher education? LEMASTER: I think it may have been for a short period of time, but we began to give the higher education more opportunities to help themselves, to govern themselves. And I think that it didn't take long for them to catch up. And, you know, most recently with the "Bucks for Brains," it has been, you know, it has really been a gold mine for the universities that have been good at maximizing the amount of funds that they have been able to get. MOYEN: Um-hm. When we were discussing regionalism, during your term in Frankfort, did you see any regionalism in terms of funding of higher education, simply by location of where the different regional universities were located? LEMASTER: Oh, absolutely. It was, you know, it was a contentious process that was always difficult to deal with. You know, you always had different legislators that were from a particular area. If they had a university, you know, they were interested in taking home as much, making sure that that university got as much in the way of funding as was possible. And that's not the best process, but that's the way it worked for a long time. MOYEN: As you continued to serve, you go from being a freshman or sophomore, a young legislator, to becoming a senior member. How does that change a legislator's involvement? And in what ways does becoming a senior in Frankfort, versus a freshman, allow you more freedom or more ability to pursue legislation that you might think is important? LEMASTER: Well I think you, you know, you get a lot better at understanding the legislative process of pushing the right buttons that you need to if you're really interested in certain legislation. You know, that comes with maturity and years there. You know, you, I think you go from, you know, not really knowing what you're doing to knowing how to get something done. And then as you go on out a little further, you probably get a little cynical after you've been there. I noticed myself probably getting that way as I, you know, I was there for nineteen years and that was probably too long. MOYEN: As, or when Brereton Jones takes office and as we move into the `90s and all the political scandals that take place, particularly with BOPTROT and all those things, how did that affect the legislature and how did it affect your ability to be an effective, or not yours, per se, but the legislature in general, their ability to- LEMASTER: I think although it only involved a small amount of legislators, that it really damaged and diminished the legislative stature in the public's eye. And, you know, a lot of people like to paint with a big, broad brush that, you know, everybody's involved, although again, there was only a small amount of legislators that were involved. I think it damaged the, you know, the institution of the legislature. And, you know, it's taken a while. It was a black eye and it's taken a while for it to come back. MOYEN: I read an article in the Herald-Leader that said that part of the reason for your deciding not to run again was due to the new ethics legislation and all that would be required of you and the amounts of time that that would take. Do you recall, as the ethics legislation is passed in the wake of BOPTROT, what ways that you felt like that may have gone overboard? LEMASTER: Well, what I meant by that, I was, and I think Bill Lear was probably in the same boat, both of us in large law firms. And under the ethics code, there were certain things that I as a legislator could not do, a legislator/lawyer couldn't do, but my partners could do. But I had to report it. And so when you've got a situation of 120 lawyers that were in the law firm I was in, it wasn't that I, you know, it was just a matter of time, I felt like, that there would have been an accidental violation of the ethics by, you know maybe, probably not by me because I know the rules, but, you know, 120 lawyers in a law firm are not going to be as aware of them, even though I'd be telling them, you know, if you do this, you've got to get me know so we can report it. And so it was just, you know, I think it was a situation that there would have been an accidental violation if I'd have stayed in the legislature much longer after it went into effect, although it went in in `92 and I didn't get out until `94. So I didn't have problems reporting what I needed to report, but I just felt like that it was the type of situation that could be abused, I mean not abused, but could be violated without you even knowing. And then, you know, some, you appear over here and something, a red flag comes up that I'd violated the ethics laws. And I mean, you know, that's all I need trying to practice law and protect my reputation and everything like that, and it's, you know, some sort of accidental violation. You didn't, I didn't need that. MOYEN: Right. LEMASTER: So, you know, I think probably we, certainly we need strong ethics laws and we need to make sure that they're enforced and that the legislators play by the game and the executive branch plays by the game. But I think probably, when they were originally passed in `92, that they were a little strenuous and onerous. I mean there are situations where, you know, there for a while you couldn't even give a legislator a ride if he wanted to go from A to B. And, you know, it was a little bit overboard. MOYEN: What other reasons were there for you to decide not to run? What really influenced you to make that decision? LEMASTER: I think it had just, you know, I had been there long enough, and it had just gotten to the point where, as I said earlier, it got to the point where it was two fulltime jobs. You know, I know I had my law practice where I had to feed my family, and then I had another fulltime job where I had to try to help take care of 40,000 constituents. And it, I had, my boys at that time when I got out, would have been, in `94 they would have been nine and eleven, eight and ten, somewhere in there. You know, I was certainly getting more involved with them, so it was just a good time to, I'd had a very good and rewarding legislative experience, so it was time to move on. MOYEN: Looking back on your almost twenty years of service, which individuals in the legislature did you view as most successful in their approaches to legislative leadership and getting things passed? LEMASTER: Oh, on the House side, you know, Bill Kenton and Bobby Richardson were certainly, in the early part of my legislative career, were certainly strong legislators that gave good leadership, that got things done. You know, Blandford, Don Blandford proved to be a very strong speaker until his demise. Greg Stumbo has, you know, over the years, he's probably, in the House, as strong, probably stronger than anybody right now. And Jody Richards has been, Jody's not as strong as other legislators, but Jody sort of tries to build by consensus. But he's done a good job, too. MOYEN: You were well-known for sponsoring and encouraging legislation that would help the horse industry. Can you think of any, or what were the most influential bills that you helped pass or vote for that helped, aided the horse industry? LEMASTER: I can't remember any specific ones that stand out right now but, you know, being a state representative for Bourbon and Fayette counties, the portion of Fayette County that I represented had many, you know, many of our good horse farms along with Keeneland. As I said, I went out to the Woodford County line, so Keeneland was in my district. And certainly Bourbon County is famous for a lot of the horse farms, so I was an active voice for the horse industry because I felt like that it not only benefited my particular legislative district, but the state in general. And, you know, I think the economic dollars that have come here over time have been incredible as far as thoroughbred interests and the breeding. You know, I tried to make sure that the horse sales and the breeding were treated fairly, tax-wise. You know, I was, over the years had supported the Horse Park, and I think the Horse Park has, you know it, I guess it was John Y. that labeled it as a white elephant. And, you know, I think the Horse Park has been an invaluable tourist attraction for us in central Kentucky, and it continues to grow and gets, you know, major events here all the time and brings in, you know, I don't even think the people that live here in central Kentucky have any idea how much impact, from an economic standpoint, that the Horse Park brings to central Kentucky. So that was in my district. MOYEN: You were also on the Cities Committee, the Kentucky Cities Committee. What ways did you see and do you see the legislature helping develop cities? What types of things would you all do to try and encourage development? Or what types of ways did you aid and assist- LEMASTER: Well, during the early years we had, you know, the economic development and those type of initiatives were controlled in the cities legislation. Then it became-and we did a pretty good job of setting up legislation like enterprise zones and things like that that would encourage certain location of businesses in the certain areas of town that were depressed. And then as, you know, it got more in vogue, we came up with an Economic Development Committee rather than just a Cities Committee, and then the cities were separate from economic development. You know I think, you know, you worked each legislative session with the Kentucky League of Cities to try to do things that helped change the environment for, in a positive way for the cities. MOYEN: Um-hm. Looking back on your term, is there any specific legislation that you were most proud of for having sponsored or voted for that would have been a difficult vote? LEMASTER: I guess not any specific legislation. I always prided myself to, or at least I thought of myself and I think others would too, over the time, of being able to make the tough vote. You know, I was not like my friend John Isler that I would vote for all appropriations and against all taxes. You know, I felt like that if there was something that was good enough to benefit from it, if it took a tough vote and you had to vote, you know, to raise taxes or do certain things that benefited Kentucky, I mean, I was usually there for the tough votes. I can remember having to vote a couple of times to raise the gas tax. You know, it was something that we needed to do to properly fund the road fund. And I was usually one of the tough votes. And, you know, I was proud of myself from the standpoint that I, you do have to represent your constituents, but I was willing to make a tough vote even if it meant that maybe I might not go back. And there's not, there's fewer of those over there nowadays. MOYEN: So after you decide not to run for office, when you returned to your law practice, does that change anything in terms of your law practice? Or in what ways would you still stay connected with legislature, or did you do that at all? LEMASTER: Really didn't do much at all as far as, I mean you know, I still had friends that I talked to that were in the legislature, but, by and large, did not do much with the legislature until I took the job with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in January of 1997. And then part of my duties were to help oversee government relations. I took a job as president of Kentucky operations for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, like I said, on January 1st of `97, and then part of my duties were to oversee government relations, in addition to other duties. And so I had to register as a lobbyist because, you know, from time to time we would have contact with legislators. So I was back over there as, from time to time, lobbying some of my former legislators, and then, certainly, a lot of new legislators. MOYEN: And what has your experience been from that side of the political world? LEMASTER: Well, I can remember what one of the, one legislator, Mack Morgan, Mack just passed away not too long ago, but Mack was the lobbyist for the Kentucky Retail Federation. And Mack said, "Just make sure that you always tell them the truth, and always give them the pros and cons, and you'll be fine." And that's about true. I mean, you know, you, if you ever run into a lobbyist that's not quite up-front with you and tells you the straight and narrow, then, as a legislator, putting on my former legislative hat, you'll remember that for a long time. And I, you know, I've had a good experience in dealing with them since I've been, you know, since I've had to go back on the other side of the aisle. MOYEN: What are your views or opinions on the current legislature and the troubles that they're having with the budget, among other things? LEMASTER: I'm not sure I know what to think about it. I mean I've never seen it happen. I mean, you know, we've always-I can remember maybe it was the last session I was there with Brereton Jones, or it might have been the one before, where we went away for awhile without a budget, and came back and passed one before July 1st. But with this one going on it's, I guess it's, everything that goes on is news with this one. It's difficult to see how they can't sit down and reach the art of, I mean you know, use the art of compromise to come up with a budget. But there are some strong-willed people over there now. And, you know, you've got one house controlled by the Democrats and one that's controlled by the Republicans, and we didn't have that. We, while I was there, we had factions inside the party, but usually once you got by the faction arguments, then it was over because the numbers were such. MOYEN: Um-hm. There were others, other legislators who resigned during the early and middle `90s who really lamented what they called the "different tone" in Frankfort, the way legislators were dealing with each other. Did you notice a change in tone in the way that people dealt with each other? LEMASTER: Yeah. I think in the latter portion of my career in Frankfort, the last couple of years, I saw that people were, you know, you used to be able to, what's the term? You could disagree agreeably. In other words, you know, you could disagree, but then the next day you would, you know, we could sit back down at the table and we could discuss another issue in a reasonable type of manner. And it seems like that there's more personal attacks now between legislators back and forth. And people remember those things for a long time. And we used to be able to get by that without doing that. But yeah, I noticed that in the latter portion of my career. MOYEN: Which governor or which administration did you feel like was most effective in accomplishing what they had campaigned for and what their agenda was when they took over in Frankfort? LEMASTER: While I was there, I think Governor Carroll was certainly probably the strongest governor that was there, but that was a part of the times, too, in that the legislature was not of full age when Governor Carroll was there. Probably the more effective governor, when I look back on it, you know hindsight is 20/20, but Governor Collins was very successful, and a lot of the things that she did have moved the state forward. MOYEN: Are there any other thoughts or anything about the Kentucky legislature that I have failed to mention that you think would be important? LEMASTER: I don't think so. I, you know, I enjoyed my nineteen years in the legislature. I enjoyed the, I fully enjoyed the challenge of two terms serving as majority leader, and even though it was quite stressful, when I think back on it, it was an enjoyable and challenging time. But I've also enjoyed being out of public life, too. MOYEN: I certainly thank you for your time. LEMASTER: Okay, Eric. Good to meet you. [End of Interview] 1 LeMaster (House 1976-1994, 72nd district; Democrat) discusses growing up in Paris, Kentucky, early political involvement, playing basketball for the University of Kentucky, the impact of reapportionment on the role of the legislator, education reform, and changes in his philosophy on legislative responsibility during his term. Highlights include his impressions of several governors and other leaders in the legislature, his time as majority leader (1982-1984), his work on legislation related to the horse industry and on the Kentucky Cities Committee. He concludes with a look at his current connection to the legislature as a lobbyist for a health insurance company. Kentucky Legislature